Legacy Report - Liaison Contents

3  Directly-elected chairs

17. Among the developments in select committee effectiveness this Parliament, the most significant is the direct election of almost all committee chairs by the whole House. The implementation of the Wright Committee reforms, at the end of the 2005-10 Parliament, provided a boost to select committees from the start of this Parliament.[7]

18. The Procedure Committee has reviewed the process of elections.[8] The fact that there were contests for 16 of the 24 available chairs is a mark of the level of interest in these roles. The two by-elections which have occurred in the last year have also stimulated much competition.

19. A fair distribution of chairs across parties is an essential element of our select committee system. Within that, the election of chairs by the whole House gives those chosen a greater degree of authority in their role in the House, their relationship with ministers and their standing in the wider community.

20. We welcome the close co-ordination between three committees on EU Justice and Home Affairs issues, which has assisted the House. The fact the committees are chaired by directly-elected chairs from the three different major parties has added to the credibility of their joint recommendations.

21. The House should resist any attempt by the front-benches to overturn the Wright reforms and make the election of chairs less democratic and representative. Such a retrograde step would harm the standing of select committees in their role of holding to account the Government of the day. A return to appointment of chairs behind closed doors or just within parties would be unacceptable.

Support for chairs

22. Whether as a direct consequence of the ways in which chairs are now elected, or as a sign of the growing significance of select committees generally, the Liaison Committee is conscious of the wider demands placed on chairs. In addition to chairing the committee and guiding its inquiries, a chair is often expected to attend and speak at events within the committee's subject area and to meet numerous stakeholder organisations. This is an important way of keeping in touch, but it does make demands on the chair's time and resources. Some chairs are relying on their own constituency staff to support them in carrying out these extra duties because there has not been sufficient support available from committee staff. We are therefore pleased that the House has agreed to the Liaison Committee's modest request for an increase in scrutiny resources to enable committee staff to provide additional support for chairs in their wider role in the next Parliament.

7   House of Commons Reform Committee, First Report of Session 2009-10, Rebuilding the House: Implementation,
HC 372  

8   Procedure Committee, Fifth Report of Session 2010-12, 2010 elections for positions in the House, HC 1573 Back

previous page contents next page

© Parliamentary copyright 2015
Prepared 24 March 2015